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The Pride of Xi'an

The Wild Goose Pagoda and the Terra Cotta Warriors

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Harry met us in mid-morning for our drive over to the Wild Goose Pagoda. With a name like that, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The pagoda, and surrounding buildings, is now a popular place for Chinese to go visit. IMG_0662.jpg We realized that we picked our trip during the most popular time for Chinese families to take their summer vacations, and now that many have some money, they are doing it!IMG_0673.jpg

So, again, there were large crowds as we learned about the history of the pagoda, when different additions were made, the marvelous nature of the structures, and what purpose each one had. IMG_0674.jpg I got so busy taking pictures that I missed much of the information, so Bruce got much more of that story. I do know that this is the only monastery open to the public that still has monks there.

And this was, in the theme I have been noting for days now, my favorite monk: large_IMG_0677.jpg

At last, we headed out of town to see the wonder of the world: the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi'an. We were not disappointed.large_IMG_0796.jpg Emperors generally used to bury their imperial guards, concubines, and other close household supporters with them when they passed. But the time the Emperor Qin was nearing his end, there was more of a population need than there obviously is now in China. To him, it made more sense to bury the likenesses of his bodyguards. large_IMG_0700.jpgThat is one reason why this event is considered so outstanding. Each soldier is an actual portrait of someone. So, it wasn't just some sort of assembly line of warriors, it was a series of portrait sculptures. large_IMG_0798.jpg

The whole complex was first discovered in the early 1970s when a farmer was digging deeper to refresh a well he had to water his field. He ran up against shards of hard clay and a head sculpture. He called the "authorities" and antiquity archaelogists around the world came to Xi'an. Since then, other kinds of sculptures, and different kinds of warriors and officials have been unearthed. It's been going on almost 40 years and they are still finding new discoveries. He was there signing books telling his tale.large_IMG_0833.jpg It's kinda cool to get one from him, which we did! There are three main areas, and while the largest one is the most familiar, and most explored, the newer sites are being more carefully revealed.

The original statues were also painted, but the air hitting the statues, together with sunlight, causes the paint to fall off. Now, the newer worksites are being shielded from sunlight and protected under roofing that allows the climate to be more controlled. It was an amazing thing to see and experience and one I will remember all my life.large_IMG_0799.jpg

The Chinese really let their new capitalism show from time to time. You pay a small fee to have a little "Disneyworld" type tram take you from the parking area (complete with hawkers and tourist traps) out to the site. large_IMG_0694.jpg But you have to walk back through a gauntlet of hawkers, shops, restaurants, etc. large_IMG_0847.jpg The American chains are well-represented: KFC, McDonalds, etc. We decided to have a bit of lunch and had a Subway 6 inch.IMG_0685.jpg It's not quite like in the US, but probably as close are we were going to get.

A bit about "Chinese" food. What we Americans call "Chinese" food, is not real Chinese food. We knew that coming out. If you have a culture where starvation is a constant concern, you end up eating...pretty much whatever your cast-iron stomach will take. Many things we skip right away (chicken feet, pig intestines, genitalia, etc.) But even the normal things can have regional differences that you need to be aware of. Spice levels should always be considered to be many times higher than you might see at home. Preparation is another key concern. There are certain foods that we usually avoid because of the water it would be "washed" in (lettuce, most vegetable) unless they are cooked well in the preparation of the food. This is why we often end up eating American food, because we know that our preparation will "kill" any little hitchhiking critters that could make our time a little less pleasant.

We left Xi'an truly appreciating the history and majesty of this former imperial city. It was one of the most satisfying stops on our tour and we were excited at the idea of finally getting to the capital, Beijing. However, mindful of the nature of Chinese overnight train accommodations, we were a bit cautious as to how our 13 hour train ride to Beijing would go.

Coming in to the Xi'an train station did not calm our concerns. Thousands of people were everywhere. I thought of a scene in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun where the young boy (a youthful Christian Bale) is separated from his parents by a mass exodus of refugees. That's how the train station felt. People were everywhere on the ground, many lying on newspaper, waiting for a train. Being ticketed on a "soft sleeper" (a misnomer as far as I'm concerned!) we had a seat in a waiting room. large_IMG_0852.jpg It's still chaos!

At 6:30, we said goodbye to Harry, got on the train, and settled into a cabin much like the Guilin to Nanning berths we had, but with a little nicer touches. Like an electrical socket in the berth! Yay! Um...but they don't work. Hey, wait...the "TV" works (lots of ads for stuff). It's funny what the Chinese will "make sure that it works" when you look at certain things. Everything is very calculated, I assure you.

After a few hours, the kids began to doze off, as did Bruce. Me? I couldn't get sleep in that sort of situation, but that was ok. I texted with my wife across 1200 miles of China and she could track me by my iPhone across Google Earth. She was telling me what kind of terrain we were passing (it was dark, there was little I could be sure of). As it got near 4:00 am, I did finally doze off...but I got this slightly blurry little shot of an almost full moon over the mountains at night.large_IMG_0859.jpg

The final leg of our little tour is ahead...

More later,

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 16:01 Archived in China Tagged landscapes mountains night trains sculptures Comments (0)

Chengdu: It feels like the Chicago of China

And that bring up a lot of ideas and criteria

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At this point, I think it's proper to give a tip of the hat to Larry and Qin Herzberg. Their "China Survival Guide" was full of "heads up" issues that the new traveler to China should be aware of. I know they have been criticized for being a little cynical, but it's important to realize when you come here that China is a large, populous country with some growing pains that the newbie China traveler should be aware of. I am grateful for their book. It's not perfect, but it's been very helpful in the areas of things to make sure to do, as well as caveats that will save you some pretty significant hassles.

Last night, we experienced chapter 8 - domestic air travel. Hefei's airport is brand new, like so much of China, and I mean it is NEW: opened on May 31st. But I think there are other bugs being worked out. Also, there is a typhoon (pacific hurricane) down by Hong Kong, so a lot of flights that were to connect in Hefei were running late. Our flight originated from Seoul, South Korea, but for some reason got delayed too. (air traffic congestion can mean a lot of things.) In the end, we left at 7:50, not 6:30 and landed at 10:45 not 9:20. The way our trip has gone, we didn't find this a reason for big concern, but the Chengdu portion of our trip has been a little squirrely from the beginning. We were originally put into a hotel that we didn't think was getting very good reviews from Trip Advisor, so we asked to be moved to one near the New Century Global Center. The center has been touted throughout the media over the last few months as one of the biggest buildings in the world. We thought, "Hey, we can't go all the way to Chengdu China and not go see that! It advertises an indoor beach with a flat screen sunset! How cool is that?'

The hotel we wanted never quite showed up on final versions of our itinerary, and Faye informed us on our last day in Hefei that the hotel was "full" and that we were being put in a new hotel, the Dorsett Grand Hotel. Little did we know that our adventure was just beginning! I quickly looked it up and saw that it had many of the things we deem important: good breakfast, swimming pool, connecting rooms, and it was new and in the downtown area. Ok, we thought, we're flexible. Let's get excited about our new "digs!"

Faye got us to the airport early (as we requested. It's good to give the kids downtime and not feel like everything has to be Mach 3 with your hair on fire) and saved our bacon (as our guides have over and over). It seems that the tickets, which require your passport number on them, had Laurie's old passport number. Bruce had replaced it over the summer, because you need to have a passport that won't expire within 6 months after you have completed international travel. Bruce gave the new number to our agency, we know because it had been right on all the other tickets, but it was wrong on the Hefei to Chengdu flight. Good thing we got there early.

Faye went through the necessary channels, and while we don't know exactly what she did, our twenty-something dynamo handled this sticky situation calmly and adroitly. As we said goodbye to her for our full security groping, the girls and Faye exchanged hugs and a fond farewell. WE spent about 3 1/2 hours waiting for our tardy flight but got off the ground for our 3 hour flight southwest to Chengdu. The food was an indentifiable beef product and rice with what I guessed was carrots, and a bun, a something, and another something (which no one ate) Laurie scooped up all our rolls, (except she was too late with Bruce. He already downed it) and before we knew it, we were in Chengdu! It was only 12 hours to panda time!

Getting off the plane reminded me of the old days of flying in to Midway when Southwest first started flying to Chicago. large_IMG_0703.jpg You get off on the old style portable stairways, get hit in the face by yellow dust, carbon monoxide, 100 degree heat and 100 % humidity. Oh boy, this will be even better tomorrow when the sun comes up! If I sound a little silly, it's because I know what's coming next. We piled onto a bus, kind of like the one in Hong Kong to go to Guilin, and off we went to the terminal. It was a living breathing (barely) Dial commercial. We quickly got our bags in another beautiful huge new airport, and met Sandy (the second) and Mr. Something Mumbled, our driver, and took off for downtown.

Downtown Chengdu at night looks like part VegasIMG_0708.jpg, part ClevelandIMG_0710.jpg, part Gotham City (Dark Knight) IMG_0707.jpgand part Blade Runner. As we were talking, a $260,000 Porsche went blazing by us. We caught him at the lights. He was @ 28, and in a dirty t-shirt. No Alfred driving Bruce Wayne in that car. It was clear that Sandy was very proud of Chengdu, and for good economic reasons. It has 15 million people (most in the city, about 6 in the suburbs) and we passed every imaginable car dealership on the way it. It was not your Chairman's China anymore. This was boomtown. even the welding continues at night! IMG_0711.jpg The air was so dense, it was hard to see much of the skyline in spite of plentiful neon and LED signs. The city's main business is Foxconn: the guys who build iPads, iPhones, etc, are in the outskirts employing over 100,000 Chinese. It's not by any means the only game in town, but it's an important one with many tentacles.

Once we arrived at the hotel, the real fun began. We didn't have adjoining rooms; the hotel doesn't have them. So the girls were going to be some ways down the hall from us. Oh well, it's only a coupla nights. The big bed was kind of small and the girls do NOT like sharing the bed (Hayley sleepwalks and is quite "active") But the biggest issue was the noisy next door neighbors to the girls' room. There were two pretty plain but well dressed guys, and six, yes six, drop dead knockout girls, and they were all...uh....quite noisy, inebriated, and raring for partying. What the heck is going on? We then go into the room...have you ever been in a hotel room where the wall from the bathroom to the bedroom part of the room is a solid clear pane of glass? Uh...what? Now, there is a shade you can drop...but then...why would you keep it up?

Bruce and I are not stupid and quickly put two and two together. It was a paid party going on next door to our girls. Nope, not gonna happen. We zipped downstairs and informed all that we needed to be moved. Sandy came through and help persuade them to give us room next to each other on another floor. We then realized we would need more cash for the panda experience the next day. One needs to give a healthy "donation" in order for the girls to feed, and be photographed, with a live panda, and we weren't planning on coming back to China again. So, darn it, we're gonna do it! China is pretty much a cash economy and, as I said earlier, they are kinda picky about the condition of US currency that they accept for exchange. Looks like we had better get to an ATM!

We left the girls in the safety of their room to get ready for bed and Sandy came to guide us to one and we quickly felt like we were not where we wanted to spend much time outside. IMG_0714.jpg The "ladies of the night" hand out business cards with their pictures on them. We saw them scattered all over the street. Over and over, Bruce's card was getting rejected after his first withdrawal. Hmmm...sounds like Bank of America is refusing to work in China. Beastids! I took some out and "exchanged" some cash for Bruce (thank you Commerce Bank) and we headed back. While we were in this little room where the ATMs were, the speaker overhead was playing some gibberish at an ear-splitting volume that sounded like Ferengi or something. We deduced that they probably do that so you get out of there pronto after contracting your business. It keeps the riff-raff out.

It looks like we were finally wrapping our day up when we put the girls to bed and headed back to our room in order to get ready for bed. Bruce checked his online banking and saw that BoA had shut down his checking account for suspicious activity. Hmmm. He had let them know that he was going to China before he left (as I had with Commerce) BoA fail. Their website suggests you call toll-free (can't in China) or collect (try finding a Chinese operator who understands that English phrase. We didn't) Oh well, we should be good till tomorrow. But just to get things going in the right direction, we once again put my iPhone with the Chinese SIM card to work and called BoA. "All our account specialists are busy at the moment but your call is important to us..." If we were so important, you'd hire more people so we didn't have to wait at $1.30 a minute.
We decided we'd give it 5 mins, then hang up. Right near the end, a gal picked up. We quickly told her we needed her to call us back and work out this problem of getting his account shut down while he was in China. We gave her my Chinese phone number, she said she'd "try" to call us back (Yoda, where are you when we need you!? "Do or do not...there is no try.") and we hung up. Finally, at 2 am, we gave up and went to bed.

I'm going to end this story here, even though it really doesn't end here. But we need to get a little dinner in the girls and so much happened last night that I wanted to get it down before I forgot any of the wonderful details. Seriously, our trip has gone so well that for the few times when it hasn't (weather, being lost, wrong turns, whatever) Bruce and I keep saying, "it will make a great story." And they all have...

More in the next post,

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 03:25 Archived in China Tagged buildings skylines people parties sky night planes hotel Comments (0)

Captain's Log: Stardate 16-8-2013 Supplimental

How about a Q and A session?

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Ok, no pics on this one. We are waiting for our flight to Chengdu and it's late "due to air traffic congestion."

So, let's have a little fun on the "small game." A phony Q & A session. If I don't finish this before we board (currently set for 90 mins from now) I'll finish tomorrow morning. Right now, I'm thinking we are getting in to our hotel on a late night timetable. Ugh. I'm pretty sure it's a long drive to the Panda Center, and that is just the morning schedule. We hit Dufu Cottage in the afternoon. Bruce and I have been having fun with his name for days. Can't wait to be laughing hysterically for no reason once we get there.

Ok...the Q & A

Q: What is the strangest things you have witnessed in China so far?

A: Probably some of the English language T-Shirts that make no sense. It's largely a fashion statement for the Chinese. Now, they don't get a total pass. Most of the younger people start learning English early, like we teach French and Spanish to our elementary and middle schoolers. That's how Faye, our most recent guide, learned hers. But there are some real howlers. We've put a few in our pictures, we'll try to get some more up.

Q: What has surprised you the most?

A: There haven't been a ton of surprises. I like to do my research and I did a lot this summer before we headed over. I guess what is interesting is some of the things I read about that have become readily evident. The dust, the construction, the masses of people, the jostling, the cigarette smoking (unbelievably bad) the poverty, the staring at us (two old westerners with two little Chinese girls who speak english, not Chinese), the people who walk up and ask questions. I get quizzed by people when I'm at the bathroom, I think so they can practice their english. When I tell them I'm American, they don't act surprised. It's probably similar to the way we can't help staring at Amish in Lancaster County; we expect to see them, but we still can't help staring in surprise. "Gee, they really exist?"

The biggest surprise for me is the incredibly evident Chinese wealth as evidenced by automobiles, luxury stores (full of Chinese, not westerners), large groups vacationing at 5 star resorts, and on. Bruce and I agree: Mao may be on the money, but he would be cheesed to see what has happened to his socialist revolution.

Q: What do you like the most over there?

A: The people have been largely outstanding. Our guides are little short of amazing. I know this is what they do for a living, but they know they will never see us again, yet they keep in touch. We have continued to exchange emails with every one of them. Example: When we left Nanning, the driver threw away a bag that he thought had trash in it. It actually held a tile from the site where Laurie's original SWI had been. She had picked up a piece as a memento. Bruce just got off the phone with Hannah: she had obtained another tile and will be sending it to our hotel in Beijing. Seriously. I can't tell you some of the other amazing things she did. Sandy got us front row seats to the cultural show. We wouldn't have known the difference, but he worked hard to do it. Faye just saved our bacon when there was a discrepancy in Laurie's passport. Evidently, the ticket had her old passport number on it; Bruce had to get her a new one this summer because the passport must be more than 6 months from expiring when you travel. This young lady in her early 20s cut through some pretty tough red tape and got the situation resolved in around 15 mins.

Q: What do you like least?

A: Hard to say. Some of it is simply comfort issues, and I know that, as an American, I am spoiled. They consider air conditioning at 80 degrees to be ok; we don't. We drink a lot more fluids, especially because we sweat so much when it's hot, and we miss ice-cold drinks with ice. Some roads are super smooth and nice, others are like tank traps at Normandy. Dust, heat, noise, yelling, chattering, excited gesturing, massive crowds and pushing, and a resistance to lining up. All of these can grate on your nerves if you let them. Being pre-warned made it easier for me, but didn't make me like it any more. I also have strong opinions of a national/cultural need to do things for higher reasons. I see an important place for religion there. I think it is something some are seeking, but for many, it's simply about getting ahead, keeping your forward momentum, and advancing. Most of those we meet are interested in coming to visit America. We would love have them come visit. I think it would be more of a cultural shock for them than China has been for us. That's due to availability of information. Many Chinese are learning to get around the "Great Firewall of China "(government blocking of websites like US Google - they use Hong Kong, and Facebook) But most aren't interested in wasting their time with that when there are so many approved portals they can go through. In 20 years, what will the government do when all that is for naught? Interesting question.

Q: What would you hope people would take away from your experiences from this blog?

A: Ah, I'll save that for the end...many places still to go.

Q: What is modern air travel like in China?

A: Pretty good. Most of the facilities are new, security is not nearly as draconian as it is in the US, and luggage comes out quickly. I could tell on our flight from Nanning to Hefei that a number of them were flying on a plane for the first time. They were posing, taking pictures, and having to be told the flight rules. I love the way each member of the flight crew is introduced over the PA and they bow as each name is announced. It's kinda fun. The attendents work hard because they need the job and want to keep it. For the most part, you see that around China with service personnel except the stores. You can tell the store salespeople are bored; and not on commission! Probably because they see us Americans. We spend all our money just getting there and are cheap, or don't buy much in the stores. Whereas the Chinese figure they are on "vacation" and drop a bundle on gifts, souvenirs, and parties when on vacation. At least, this is what Sandy told us, and I'll bet he's right!

Q: Do you tip in China?

A: In theory, no. But westerners have ruined things there also, and it's starting to get expected. The Chinese culture would say that you shouldn't get extra money just for being proper in performing your tasks. But the consumer culture is booming in China and tipping is catching on. In a few years, in the major cities, it will probably be like most cities in the world.

Q: What do the Chinese do for fun?

A: From what we saw, smoke, drink, eat, talk loudly, and stare (just kidding on that last one). We see a lot of ads for liquor (not beer), fashions, but mostly by the government (police, admonishments to behave better (I don't know what else to call it) and government construction.) The models are starting to look western in revealing outfits and made up to a T western-style. Looking around the airport here, many of them read a lot (books, newspapers, etc) but, and here is another big surprise of the trip, EVERYONE, AND I DO MEAN EVERYONE, OWNS A CEL PHONE. The telephone is a relatively new reality for many Chinese. We had wired phone technology for a century; China has not. Cel technology has allowed them to connect hundreds of millions of people simply by putting up massive numbers of cel towers, not miles of pole and wires. People are motorbiking with one hand and yelling on their cel. They walk and text and expect others to get out of their way (from what I have witnessed, amazingly, they do.) Numerous signs tell people on the highway not to text and drive (they do anyway) I have seen people in what looks like abject squalor texting on a smartphone. It's truly amazing. There are few iPhones, unlike the USA here. The smartphones are largely Android, with those huge Samsung Note IIs being most popular. There are other manufacturers like Lenovo, Huawei, and others. But you can walk for a long time around any public areas and see swarms of people in groups, or individually, swiping, texting, or, more often, yelling (not talking quietly) It's quite a massive experience.

Q: Anything you forgot?

A: Sure, and perhaps I'll do another of these sometimes. Some I hold back on. We have had weird blockage of some sites we use from time to time. I don't know if that is intentional or accidental, but it does make one a little paranoid. Some things I hold back because it sounds petty. Like the spitting phenomenon. Chinese spit...a LOT. It's ok, because it's usually presaged by a loud HOOOOWWWWWAAAACCCCCCK..then a pause, then PTOOOOH. So you do have time to not get in the firing line. I attribute it, as outlined in one of my guide books, to the smoking, but also the poor air quality. Bruce and I are ready to leave Hefei. It's nice, but it reminded us of Anaheim in the 1970s...or worse. Hopefully there is a clearer air in the hilly regions of Chengdu.

Well, I hope this has been fun. Allegedly, our plane leaves in 30 mins...but I'm preparing to be disappointed. :) It's all good. The Chinese take it in stride...and I think I should too.

Zai Jian

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 03:48 Archived in China Tagged me buildings people parties night hotel research prep Comments (1)

Xia Jian Guilin, Ni Hao Nanning

A cozy train ride takes us to Nanning

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We knew that there was a lot of excitement that had been generated over the last few days and the girls needed some rest. They both slept through most of the outdoor show, which was a shame, and so we let Sandy know that we would start our last day's sightseeing in Guilin after lunch.

This was a wise move because they both slept till 9:30. We finally got downstairs for our "breakfast" at around 11,large_IMG_0548.jpg and just took time getting repacked for our night train to Nanning. We took the opportunity to have our breakfast by the side of the river that passes Moondance Boutique Resort. IMG_0555.jpgWe want to thank Roland and his staff. I promised to put a nice review on Trip Advisor in the future. It was an extraordinary experience.IMG_0552.jpg

Sandy took us on a long car ride to the other touristy area of Guilin: Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Park, and Fubu Hill. The Reed Flute Cave reminded me of my first date with my sweet wife. We went to Meramec Caverns (Hey, it was January 2nd, nothing much was open, and it was warm for a January excursion. Neither of us had been, but we had both seen the billboards!) We left that experience almost convulsed with unintended laughter because of the schmaltzy light show. The Chinese have taste. Every main area is lit with muted colorful lights in a way to literally illuminate the formation before you. Think of it like the Chinese version of watching clouds go by and using your imagination as to what it portrays. IMG_0567.jpg It was delightful and awe-inspiring. It was also nice and cool. The days are usually in the mid to upper 90s and the humidity is near 100%. It's clear that we will need to be on our toes to stay well hydrated. Tap water is not potable for foreigners (who don't have a built up immunity to little critters in the water supply) so we are going to have to keep after our guides to help us find cold bottled water as we progress.

After the cave, we were asked if we would like to see how silk is made from cocoons or how pearls are recovered. We were prepared for this. In Korea, they asked us if we wanted to view a cloisonne factory. We took a pass. In China, our guides are often compensated by the government and tourism is a critical part of the economy now. We like Sandy a lot and we want to keep him in good stead with his "employer, so we said yes to the silk business. It was a soft-sell/hard sell (if you know what I mean)IMG_0247.jpg but we took a pass on most of the "suggestions" and let the girls pick out a couple of scarfs to meet our obligations. IMG_0249.jpg I looked at shirts, but the kind of silk shirts I like were not there. They were much more...uh...sheer.

Next up was a visit to the Elephant Trunk Park,IMG_0252.jpg so named because of a big elephant-shaped rock formation that looks like the elephant is drinking in the water. The heat wave and accompanying dry weather of late has led to a lower level for the river, and the locals joke that the elephant has drunk much of the water!IMG_0257.jpg Hey, that wasn't us, that's some of those locals! We get revenge by staying on the bridge. Don't believe me?808776802219AC6817090899CE726197.jpg The park was nice, but also full of hawkers who saw the foreigners come their way. One learns to be nice but firm unless you see something you want. I think I will be doing a lot of my souvenir hunting at the panda reserve in Chengdu.

Finally, we went by a statue of General Fubu of the Tan Dynasty.IMG_0264.jpg He looks like Chou Yung Fat should be portraying him by the looks of his statue. Meanwhile, Keith Too Fat was seen accompanied by Hayley Tu Hungry and Laurie So Happy. IMG_0573.jpg The hill in his name has 290 steps up to the top. After realizing what is within my current state of conditioning from the Infiltration Tunnel, I took my leave of the group at the mid-point pavilion and got lucky with this incredible panorama shot of the city you see here. It was worth the trip.large_IMG_0574.jpg

We then had dinner at a little restaurant that had "less adventuresome" food, called the Left Banke. No, there was no French cuisine, but we did get spaghetti bolognese, grilled ham and cheese, and open faced grilled cheese with bacon. It was necessary because it was a quick turn-around in order to get to the stage show with local talent in ethnic minority costumes. IMG_0584.jpg Acrobats,IMG_0587.jpg dance, even a pretend Yao wedding (the groom was recruited from the audience and all had fun with the joke). Again, we didn't understand much of it, though some songs had wonderful large screen projected background complete with english translations,IMG_0591.jpg but we didn't need that. We had front row seats (we paid the premium price) and a great time.

Finally, we decided that we were out of gas and asked to be taken to the train station early. Sandy was surprised but complied, and he stayed with us and even came on the train to help us find our "cozy" little cabin. large_IMG_0600.jpg The girls slept well, IMG_0598.jpgBruce got some shut eye, and I failed to get comfortable, but nonetheless was comforted and rested by the wonderful experience of our time in Guilin.

Ok, Nanning, the bar has been set high!

Tomorrow, a day in Nanning, the Social Welfare Institute, and a nighttime dinner with Laurie's foster dad, family, and friends.

Xai Jian,

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 16:30 Archived in China Tagged landscapes mountains beaches bridges art skylines people night trains Comments (1)

Over the Pole and into Seoul

We establish our first Asian adventure in Korea

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Going from Boston to JFK was a hop, skip, and a plop. But getting ready for our 14 hour flight to Seoul seemed daunting. Bruce and Jo had gone on Korean Air when they went to meet Laurie in 2003 so we decided to take KE for our first leg of our journey even if it was a bit more. We later realized we had bought at just the right time and we had an experience that reminded us of what air travel can be like.

The flight crew of KE 82 were gracious, patient, attentive, tireless, joyful, creative in solving problems, and, with the exception of one young man, all women. They came to the airport looking like they would be walking the runway at a fashion show, rather than an airport! By the end of the trip, many of us felt like something on the floor of a theater after a Saturday morning matinee. The crew was as effervescent as ever. Bruce and I remarked again and again that this KAL crew was showing the world that it can[i] be done. We saw them line up before entering the jet in JFK and it looked like their version of the pre-game meeting at the Super Bowl! large_IMG_0318.jpg

Once onboard, we settled into our "new economy" seats in KAL's massive A380 Airbus. I sent a text to my bride, who remarked, it looks as big as an apartment building. True...but how many buildings hold over 400 people?! It's a 3-4-3 configuration, and we had chosen a row of four near the front (and the bathrooms) We were excited to get on our way! IMG_0320.jpg

Food was tasty and nicely presentedIMG_0329

IMG_0329

And once we landed, we promptly got on a very nice bus for our trip to our hotel!IMG_0332.jpg After a bit of excitement trying to find our hotel (which was only "one block" away) we checked in, dumped our luggage, and headed off for some quick Korean cuisine...at Burger King! IMG_0346

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Finally, it was time to head home. We scouted out some eating places for the morning. It's going to be a quick beginning to the day as we head to the Seoul USO for a tour of the DMZ between the two Koreas. IMG_0348.jpg

On our way back, we had a glimpse of the active small stores around our hotel. Perhaps tomorrow, we can be a little more adventuresome than Burger King!IMG_0350.jpg

It's late and I must rise in a few hours. Good night, all!

Keith

Posted by Kwpres 07:51 Archived in South Korea Tagged me buildings children night planes hotel Comments (1)

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